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Issue 6: March 2021


Cheokas appointed dean of GSW's College of Business and Computing

Gaynor Cheokas, DBA, has been appointed dean for the College of Business and Computing (COBAC) at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW). Cheokas has served as interim dean since June 2020 following the retirement of Liz Wilson, Ph.D., former dean, after 30 years of distinguished service.

“Gaynor has done an outstanding job leading as interim dean,” said President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. “She has brought high energy and creative ideas for new degree programs. I am excited about the direction she is taking us, and I expect great things from her as she continues to lead the nationally ranked and accredited College of Business and Computing which has earned its reputation as one of the best in the nation.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzanne Smith, Ph.D., explained that Cheokas was the ideal person to lead COBAC into the future when asked about the dean search.

“Gaynor has both the skill set and personality needed for this position,” Smith said. “She has made great strides in a short period of time. I look forward to what she and her colleagues will do in the years to come to help our students reach their goals and be successful both while at GSW and once they graduate.”

Cheokas joined the faculty at Georgia Southwestern in the fall of 2004. During her 17 years at GSW, Cheokas has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in fields such as small business management, entrepreneurship and organizational leadership. In addition, Cheokas is currently the director for the Center for Business and Economic Development housed in COBAC.

Learn more about Cheokas and her new position here.

Gaynor Cheokas

GSW announces 2021 Outstanding Alumni Awards recipients

Georgia Southwestern announced nine of its most outstanding alumni for their professional and personal achievements as well as their contributions to the University. These individuals were recognized Saturday, Mar. 13 during the annual Outstanding Alumni Awards Dinner in the GSW Storm Dome. 

“Georgia Southwestern would not be the great institution that it is today without our outstanding alumni, friends and partners,” said GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. “This is a special time for the GSW family as we honor graduates who have accomplished a lot in life and contributed to the successes of the University. The 2021 awardees are a unique group, and I am excited about the opportunity to recognize and celebrate these distinguished individuals.”

Each of these awards holds special significance and has different criteria. The 2021 Alumni Awardees are:

  • Aeolian Award recipient: Susan Parker Welch, '73 and '75
  • Leewynn Finklea Award recipient: Lamar Radford, '03
  • Visionary Award recipient: Jaha Dukureh, '15
  • Young Alumni of the Year: Ryan Garnto, '13
  • Family Legacy Award recipients: Randall “Randy” Roderick, ’81; Debora Durrence Roderick, ’81; Richard “Ric” Roderick, ’10; Shelley Tondee Roderick, ’10
  • Hall of Fame inductee: Lou Davidson Chase, '87 and '90, Softball

Learn more about the Outstanding Alumni here and view the event photos on GSW's Facebook page.

2021 alumni winners

GSW named #1 Best Online RN to BSN Program in Georgia for second year in a row

Georgia Southwestern has been recognized as having the #1 Best Online RN to BSN Program in Georgia by, a nursing advocacy organization, for the second consecutive year. This prestigious ranking is based on GSW's nursing program's graduation rate, tuition and fees, quality of faculty, acceptance rate, and accreditations.

RN to BSN programs allow registered nurses (RNs) to advance their career, earn a higher salary, and assume more leadership and responsibility in the workplace by earning a baccalaureate degree in nursing.

"We are delighted our RN to BSN program has been recognized once again as number one in Georgia," said Sandra Daniel, Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. "This speaks to our expert faculty, motivated students, and strong partnerships with reputable healthcare organizations. Careers in healthcare are extremely sought after right now and the long term demand for registered nurses is rapidly growing. The baccalaureate prepared nurse demand is even greater, and employers seek and support RNs who are advancing their education.”

Read more about GSW’s distinguished nursing program here.

nursing students


GSW hosts first COVID-19 vaccine clinics, vaccines still available

GSW held its first two COVID-19 vaccine clinics in March. The first, held the week of Spring Break, was open to GSW employees and their immediate family members who met Georgia's Phase 1A+ eligibility requirements. The following week, a second clinic was opened up to all members of the GSW community after Georgia expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16. The first group of Hurricanes should be fully vaccinated after receiving their second dose the week of April 12.

GSW nursing students and faculty volunteered at both clinics, with students having the opportunity to vaccinate members of the campus community. Nursing student Emily Frey spoke to WALB News 10 about her choice to forgo a Spring Break vacation in favor of volunteering at the clinic. 

The GSW Student Health Center has received another shipment of Moderna vaccines for any GSW community members who have not already received their first of two doses. Those interested in receiving a vaccine should call the Student Health Center at 229-931-2235. Please note that the Moderna vaccine is not recommended for those under the age of 18.

Rotary presents check to GSWRotary continues support of GSW scholarships

The Rotary Club of Americus continues its support of scholarships established and named for two lifelong members of its club, the late J. Willis Shiver and the late E.H. Kinnebrew, Sr. Both scholarships, established at Georgia Southwestern State University for students in free enterprise, honor the memories of Mr. Willis and Mr. Kinnebrew who each started successful businesses in Americus, Georgia, and which continue to flourish as a product of the American free enterprise system.

Angela Smith, President of the Rotary Club of Americus presents check to Stephen Snyder, Assistant Vice President for Advancement and GSW Foundation Executive Director.

Staff Senate shows appreciation to staff members

GSW's Staff Senate is distributing staff appreciation gifts to say "thank you" for each staff member's hard work and dedication, especially over the last year.

CAREGSW-logo.pngCare@GSW initiative launches with focus on mental health

GSW's new student well-being initiative, Care@GSW, was created to ensure students have the resources they need to support their health, safety, academic success, and overall well-being. Care@GSW encompasses a number of programs and resources that work together to foster an environment for student success.

With support from the University System of Georgia, Care@GSW's mental health focus will utilize Christie Campus Health resources, including a 24/7 mental health support line and the GSW Wellness Hub, plus the development of a new Peer Advocate Program. GSW also offers mental health support through on-campus counselingGSW Talkspace, and Protocol emergency services.

Visit for more information.

Student Recognitions

KJ with awardKenneth Daniels named AAMI Student of the Month

Kenneth Daniels of Sylvester, Ga. has been named the February 2021 AAMI Student of the Month. He is a freshman Chemistry major that shows great potential in his field of study. Through the Georgia Adopt A Stream Program, he will be certified as a chemical and bacterial volunteer. His project will initially involve testing the surface water wells, monitoring wells, and Willet Creek (on the property behind the Lake House on the GSW campus).

Dr. Michelle Smith, community coordinator and trainer for chemical and bacterial monitoring will be serving as his research mentor. Kenneth will be monitoring water temperature, air temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate levels, phosphate levels, and alkalinity of the wells and creek to build a profile of the water on and surrounding GSW. Through his total dedication to his academics and commitment to AAMI, Kenneth shows great promise to graduate and becoming an outstanding chemist.

Isabel AlcantarLSAMP Scholars and Faculty participate in the SWGA LSAMP Alliance Summit 2021

Isabel Alcantar (right), Kenneth Daniels, and Montavius Russell, GSW scholars in the Southwest Georgia LSAMP Alliance, as well as Dr. Samuel Peavy, professor of geology, and Dr. Michele Smith, professor of chemistry, attended the SWGA LSAMP Alliance Summit 2021. The conference was held virtually on February 26-27, 2021. The keynote speaker was Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Virginia Union University. The conference included presenters sharing success stories, interactive sessions for undergraduate students preparing for a future STEM career or graduate program, networking and mentoring opportunities, and a virtual poster session. Scholars also conducted an experiment with an enzyme catalyase to determine the effects of both temperature and concentration on the rate of a reaction.  The scholars at each of the attending institutions were then tasked with presenting their findings collectlively.

Isabel presented a poster “Interactions Between Bacteria in Soil” during the virtual poster session. Her research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. HRD-1817519 and was performed under the direction of Dr. Anh-Hue Tu, professor of biology.

Priscille MerrittPriscilla Merritt receives Golden Apple Award

On Tuesday, March 9, Ms. Priscilla Merritt, 4th grade ELA teacher at Sumter Intermediate School and current GSW graduate student, was presented the Kinetic Credit Golden Apple Award by WRBL News 3.

Ms. Merritt was nominated by one of her ELA students, Anayla Phillips, who said, “Ms. Merritt is nice, caring and never late for class!” The class and staff also joined Ms. Merritt in her celebration. The Kinetic Credit Golden Apple Award is presented weekly during the school year. The recipient of the award is featured on WRBL News 3. Ms. Merritt is also a 2019 graduate of Georgia Southwestern.

Tucker Smith named Southeast Region Pitcher of the Week

Georgia Southwestern State University senior right-hander Tucker Smith has been named the Southeast Region Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

The reigning Peach Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, Smith pitched a complete-game shutout in a 2-0 win over Young Harris College in his lone appearance last week. The senior scattered nine hits and one walk while striking out eight to extend his scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings, all against conference opponents. The complete game was one of only five in the Peach Belt so far this season and the second complete-game shutout. He has a 0.00 ERA in two conference starts and sixth in strikeouts in PBC games. This is the first NCBWA weekly award earned by a GSW player.

Read more here.

Jamey FowlerJamey Fowler is the March Canes Spotlight

Canes Spotlights highlight Georgia Southwestern students who hold leadership roles, are involved in extracurricular activities and/or excel academically in their degree programs. The March Canes Spotlight was Senior human resources management major Jamey Fowler.

Canes Spotlights are nominated by GSW faculty and staff.

Dante Tatum named to NCAA Division II All-South First Team

The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) announced Monday the 2020 NABC Coaches' Division II All-District teams and coaches, recognizing the best men's collegiate basketball student-athletes and coaches in the division. Georgia Southwestern State University junior guard Donte Tatum was named to the South District first team.

An All-Peach Belt Conference first team selection, Tatum started all 17 games and led the Hurricanes with 18.4 points per game. He was second on the team with 6.1 rebounds per game while averaging 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Tatum finished the season with nine 20-plus scoring games and a team-high four double-doubles. He turned in his best scoring night of the season with 27 points in the NCAA tournament against Lee University. He finished the season fifth in the PBC with 18.2 points per game and sixth with a 55.7 field goal average.

Tatum, a native of Raleigh, N.C., becomes the second Georgia Southwestern player to earn a postseason award from the NABC during the program's NCAA era. Phillip Brown was named an NABC All-American following the 2010-11 season.   

Member coaches of the NABC in NCAA Division II selected and voted on the 89 student-athletes named to the 2020 All-District teams.

To view the press release from the NABC, click here.


Evan KutzlerKutzler continues local history series with a look back at Americus buildings

Dr. Evan Kutzler, assistant professor of history, continues his local history series with the Americus Times-Recorder with “Before the Barista: The Layers of 134 W. Lamar Street.” This article is a backwards chronicle of the life of the building that is currently Café Campesino to the nineteenth century.

In “Fueling Up: Early Filling Stations in Americus,” Kutzler explores local filling stations and their impact on life in Americus:

“Gas stations and automobiles, even more than airplanes, transformed daily life in the twentieth century. On the one hand, it is easy to look on old utilitarian properties as eye-sores or, considering leaking petroleum tanks, public health hazards. On the other hand, there exists great nostalgia for early automobiles and the places that serviced them. Filling stations offer a useful reminder that properties do not have to be ‘cute’ to have historical value.”

Meador co-authors article

Dr. Benajmin Meador, assistant professor of exercise science, recently published an article alongside four international colleagues. The article, titled "The Associations between Physical Fitness, Complex vs Simple Movement, and Academic Achievement in a Cohort of Fourth Graders," examines a study in which correlation between elementary school students’ body composition, physical activity, physical fitness, movement ability, and academic achievement was analyzed. Movements ranged from simple actions to complex movements requiring executive functioning. In total, 110 fourth graders (60 boys, 50 girls) participated in this experiment. 

Work Anniversaries

Janie MooneyJanie Mooney celebrates 11 years at GSW

Janie Mooney, Senior Administrative Assistant to the Academic Dean in the College of Business and Computing, celebrated 11 years in her position at GSW this month. Janie originally began working in the School of Business Administration on March 10, 2010. Janie has served on the Staff Senate, the graduation committee, and on several search committees during her time as GSW. She is currently an active volunteer with SOWEGA CASA, an Ambassador for the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, and a former member of the Americus Pilot Club.

Hurricane Gratitude

This newest section will allow students, faculty, or staff to submit thanks to other members of the GSW community for their outstanding dedication, commitment, or support. Submit a "thank you" anytime via email to or during the monthly call for Breeze submissions.

“I want to thank GSW nursing students Lindsey O’Neill and Hailei Jones for their kindness and compassion. The two students are currently receiving community services hours at After Hours Care of Americus, and I unfortunately found myself there three times in a week’s span. They both had the sweetest demeanor and best personalities. Hailei was so kind and gentle with my poor, sick 4-year-old who was feeling absolutely awful. We had a great conversation about her passion for nursing and interest in pediatrics. I just want to brag on these two sweet young ladies who have a great future ahead of them and thank them for their bedside manner, the “customer service” of healthcare. To me, this is such an essential part of being a great nurse. Lindsey, Hailei, and all the GSW nursing students I’ve ever encountered do a great job of representing GSW and our excellent nursing program.” – Chelsea Collins, Director of Marketing and Communications


Upcoming Events

Find more events on the GSW academic calendar and on CanesConnect.